The Envelope & the Vintage Sedan

This activity draws heavily upon Peter Unger's book, Living High and Letting Die, and in particular upon two thought experiments featured within its pages, "The Vintage Sedan" and "The Envelope".

There are a few things to note before you get started.

1. You should carefully read the scenarios that follow. This is important because it's likely you'll see at least a couple of scenarios that are similar in structure, but where the small differences between them are (possibly) significant.

2. You should not aim at consistency, but simply answer in the way that most accurately reflects your moral views.

3. We're interested in your baseline moral intuitions here. This means you should avoid making judgements purely in terms of their social desirability. In other words, if you believe it is morally permissible to punch a kitten, for example, don't respond that it is not permissible just because you know that that's what most people will think.

Okay, we're going to start by asking you to respond to three scenarios. We won't comment on your responses at this stage, because we want to minimize the possibility of influencing the judgements you make.

Really Deep Thought

All the qualities of a man acquire dignity when he knows that the service of the collectivity that owns him needs them. If proud of the collectivity, his own pride rises in proportion. No collectivity is like an army for nourishing such pride....
   --William James.


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